Real Madrid wonderkid Vinicius Junior believes he is 'improving every day'

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Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior believes he is getting better and better everyday in a Whites shirt.

The Brazilian wonderkid, who arrived from Flamengo this summer for €45 million, has appeared regularly during pre-season for Julen Lopetegui’s men and is set to feature prominently in the 2018-19 campaign.

At just 18, the teenager already seems at home amongst his new team-mates and is confident he is approaching his best level, as well as learning all the time.

“I was certainly better (against Juventus) than in the first match,” Vinicius told Real Madrid TV.

“I’ve been improving every day and now I feel more confident, better physically and tactically, understanding everything that ‘professor’ Lopetegui has to teach us.

“He is helping us a lot so that we adapt as soon as possible.”

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Asensio and Bale on target as Real Madrid conclude US pre-season tour with win over Roma

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Marco Asensio netted the opener after just two minutes.

Real Madrid rounded off their pre-season tour stateside with a 2-1 win over Roma in New Jersey on Tuesday evening.

A second minute goal from Marco Asensio put the Whites ahead and Gareth Bale doubled the tally just 13 minutes later in the first-half of their International Champions Cup clash at the MetLife Stadium.

Kevin Strootman pulled a late goal back for the Serie A side but Julen Lopetegui’s men held on to secure fifth place in the overall table after their second victory in three games.

The Spanish giants fielded a full strength side in the first-half before making plenty of changes in the second period.

And Bale, who has enjoyed a fine pre-season campaign and assisted Asensio’s opener with a superb outside of the left-foot curling pass, is pleased with Real’s progress ahead of the UEFA Super Cup final on August 15 against Atletico Madrid in Estonia.

“We’re scoring goals and we’re winning matches, so we’re doing well,” Bale said.

“We have to keep improving and we’re really looking forward to starting the new season.”

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Keylor Navas set to be Real Madrid's eternally unappreciated star with Thibaut Courtois poised to take his place

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Navas is set to be replaced by Courtois.

Real Madrid‘s never-ending search for a goalkeeper seems to finally be at an end, with Thibaut Courtois poised to join from Chelsea in the coming days.

Courtois won the Golden Glove at the World Cup this summer, with his displays in the Belgium goal as vital to his team’s progress to the semi-finals as the work of the much-feted attackers. He has La Liga experience, excelling for three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid from 2011-2014 – he played against Real in the 2014 Champions League final, when he and Atletico were seconds away from winning before Sergio Ramos’ famous late intervention.

For the most part, he’s shown his pedigree at Chelsea. There’s no doubt that he’d be a worthy addition to the Madrid squad.

A squad that of course, already has a successful starting goalkeeper, one who has been between the posts for three-straight Champions League titles, and has also starred at a World Cup – twice.

What must Keylor Navas be thinking?

Since joining Madrid in 2014, there hasn’t been a single summer where the Costa Rican hasn’t had to worry about his club bringing in someone to replace him. Indeed, in 2015 he was at the airport, ready to go to Manchester United in exchange for David De Gea, only for the transfer to break down as an infamous fax machine malfunction nixed the move – a state of affairs that left Navas in tears.

The following two summers also saw speculation that De Gea would join Madrid, while from the beginning of last season Madrid have been constantly linked with one keeper or the other – De Gea, Courtois, Athletic Bilbao’s Kepa Arrizabalaga, Alisson when at Roma and Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris.

Navas has made a few high-profile errors during his time with Los Blancos – last season, for example, he cost his side a goal in both the quarter-final and the semi-final of the Champions League.

But by and large he’s been a solid, and often spectacular, presence as his team’s last line of defence. In that semi, he recovered from his early mistake in the first leg, letting a goal in at his near post, to pull off some top saves as Madrid pulled through for a win.

It’s performances like that which make him a regular feature in top-ten rankings for Europe’s goalkeepers. Meanwhile, former head coach Zinedine Zidane was convinced enough by Navas that he was reportedly not actively shopping for a goalkeeper, sticking up for the incumbent even as De Gea was being linked with a move.

In fact, Navas would certainly have a case if he thought Madrid were not getting much of an upgrade in Courtois. His statistics as a goalkeeper are roughly the same, if not better – especially if you consider that last year, his defence was all over the place, with injuries decimating the back-line and Madrid’s two preferred starting centre-backs, Raphael Varane and Ramos, looking less effective than the previous season.

0807 Courtois v Navas

Perhaps as a consequence of that, Navas made more saves last season despite playing eight fewer league games than Courtois, and had a higher save percentage. Just as crucially, Navas’ distribution is better than his counterpart’s, which will matter in Spain – though Courtois’ lower passing accuracy can be explained somewhat by the prevalence of longer goal-kicks in England.

And though Navas can be mistake-prone, Courtois is no different. The Belgian’s reputation took a nosedive over the last season, though he redeemed himself at the World Cup.

But from where he was when he rejoined Chelsea, good enough to force Petr Cech out the door, the progress has not been as smooth as expected.

More than anything, however, Navas is entitled to wonder what more he has to do to earn Madrid’s faith. Apart from his work as a goalkeeper, he’s also been a consummate professional, persevering despite the constant speculation regarding his position and never hitting out at the club, even though he’d have every right to be upset.

Instead, he’s now facing an impossible fight for his spot. Courtois will expect to be first choice, and in any case, no club is going to bring in a high-profile player for a £35 million fee and make him fight for playing time.

In all likelihood, Navas is going to be sold, if not straight away then soon enough. It’ll be a disappointing end to what has been an underappreciated Madrid career.

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